by Femi Fani-Kayode
All the clever rationalisations and justifications in the world for presenting a muslim/muslim ticket will not enable us to escape this ugly tag. As a matter of fact they will simply confirm it. We have a lot of work to do in this respect and permit me to share just one of the things that we ought to do very quickly if we wish to avoid the consequences of our own folly.
We must go out of our way to redress the religious imbalance in our Interim National Executive where you have virtually ALL the KEY positions in the hands of muslims and where it is only the lesser positions that the Christians enjoy.
The charge that there are far many more muslims than christians on the Interim National Executive Commitee is false because the number of Christians and Muslims in that distinguished body are more or less equal. The numbers are not the problem but rather the fact that virtually all the substantive positions on that 35-man Executive Commitee are in the hands of Muslims.
The Christians that are there are either ‘’deputy’’ or ‘’vice’’ to one of their muslim colleagues or the other. Does anyone have an idea what signal this sends? Do they care about the consequences of such a signal? Was this done by design or was it just an innocent mistake? These questions must be asked and they must be answered.
We have been saying all this quietly for a few months now but nothing has happened. No-one seems to be listening and no-one seems to care. Worst still instead of reaching out and allaying our fears we are now being fed with subtle yet insulting and unacceptable rationalisations and justifications for what is essentially politically explosive and electorally suicidal nonsense.
If there is no Christian in Nigeria that qualifies to be President or Vice President and that does not have the noble qualities of ‘’integrity, capacity and competence’’ that were listed earlier then they should tell us and we will know what to do. The whole thing is beginning to move in a certain direction and it stinks.
An illicit and subterranean agenda seems to be unfolding and instead of assuring us that such a thing can never happen or even be contemplated in today’s Nigeria they are telling us to live with it and that, all of a sudden, religion does not matter anymore.
If it does not matter anymore then why not present a Christian/Christian ticket? If it does not matter anymore then why give the impression that you are interested in the Christian vote? If it does not matter anymore then why the resistance in some quarters for a Christian Presidential candidate for the party?
Meanwhile it matters enough to those who want a muslim/muslim ticket to be secretly advocating it and to be openly suggesting it. This is nothing more than an islamic agenda in the making and to those who have such an agenda and who wish to use the APC to effect it I say ‘’that which you want to do, do it quickly and see the result of the work of your hands’’.
Make no mistake about it: I speak the minds of millions of self-respecting and discerning Christians in this country when I say these things and I have consulted very widely before saying them.
I say them because I am a committed and loyal party member who wants the party to fare well in the 2015 elections and who wants them to win. I will not sit back and remain silent when I see such a precious vehicle heading for the rocks and when I see it courting self-destruction.
Only the the irresponsible, the sycophantic and the opportunistic would do that together with those who have a hidden agenda and who do not give a damn about the consequences of this reckless course of action on the fortunes and image of the party.
If those that disagree with me wish to expel me from the party for saying so please go ahead. It will only prove my point. I have a soft spot for the APC and I have tremendous respect and affection for my friends and brothers who established it and who represent the more liberal and enlightened wing of the party.
I am talking about people like our leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, our National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, Governor Kayode Fayemi, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso, Governor Murtala Nyarko, Governor Tanko Al Makura, Governor Adams Oshiomole, Governor Rochas Okorocha, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, Senator Joseph Waku, Senator George Akume, Senator Joel Danlami Ikenya, Senator Borriface, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Senator Lawal Shuaibu , Chief Sam Nda Isaiah, Chief Tom Ikimi, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Chief John Oyegun, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamilla, Hon. Yusuf Tuggar, Prince Tony Momoh, Hon. Rotimi Makinde, Senator Femi Ojudu, Senator Jide Omoware, Senator Buki Saraki, Senator Danjuma Goje, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, Alhaji Bello Masari, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, Rt.Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and so many others, all of whom I have been very close to for many years and all of whom are far more to me than just being mere friends or political associates.
These people, together with a number of others, are the heart and soul of the party and they are it’s saving grace. I say this because, unlike a handful of others, they are essentially moderates and liberals and they represent the forces of light within it’s ranks. Yet the truth must be told. And true friends and brothers always speak the truth to one another no matter how bitter that truth is.
If speaking that truth will cost me then so be it. At least I will sleep very well at night with a clear conscience knowing that I have done my very best to steer the party in the right direction and stop it from destroying itself. One thing that I will never do, no matter what, is to allow anyone or any group of people to denigrate or insult my faith or the adherents of my faith and relegate us to the position of second class citizens. This matter must be taken very seriously indeed because the consequences of not doing so will be swift, far-reaching, irretrievable and very grave for the APC.
This is 2014 and not 1993 and today things are very different. Christians cannot and must not be taken for granted and no-one should attempt to sacrifice them on the alter of political expediency. Any party that seeks to do that ceases to be a political party and can be better described as a religious cult. And no Christian worth his salt can or will ever be the member of such a cult.
The choice is for the leaders of the APC to make. If you are a cult then continue on the path of self-destruction but if you are a political party then learn to be fair to Christians and to appreciate their sensitivities.
The suggestion of a muslim/muslim ticket by some and the subtle rationalization of such a repugnant and self-destructive agenda by others is, to say the least, nauseating. It is simply unacceptable and, in Jesus name, we reject it. Like I said earlier, those that are thinking along those lines should perish the thought and stop causing consternation, dissention and confusion. Yet if they choose to continue to do so they should prepare for the consequences.
The desire for a Vice Presidential candidate to emerge from the south-western part of the country is very strong and, if the APC really wants to win, it is the smartest thing to do. Being an unapologetic yoruba nationalist, not only am I at the forefront of that struggle but I also believe in it passionately.
I believe that that is the right and proper thing to do and that that is our due. I also believe that if the person that the leadership of the yoruba APC eventually decide to field as a Vice Presidential candidate is a muslim then the north must field a christian candidate for the Presidency.
Conversly if the person that the leadership of the yoruba APC eventually decide to field as a Vice Presidential candidate is a christian then the north must field a muslim candidate for the Presidency. It really is as simple as that. That is the way out and that is the winning combination and formula.
The way to failure, disaster and ruin is to ignore this counsel and to field a northern muslim as the Presidential candidate of the party and a yoruba muslim as his running mate. A word is enough for the wise.
Yet all hope is not lost. I say this because there are many leading northern muslims who are highly respected elders and leaders within the ranks of the opposition who have been quietly advocating for a northern Christian that can be trusted by them and that is competent and reliable to be the candidate of the APC. They see this as the only way to ensure that the ugly tag of being a sectarian party is finally removed.
They also see it as the only way that Jonathan can be defeated simply because a combination of the northern Christian and muslim vote, coupled with a strong and credible muslim running mate from the south-west that will garner the support of all the yoruba regardless of their faith, cannot be defeated.
Since we are on this topic I am constrained to make reference to a rather strange and curious event which took place just last week and which has some relevance to this discourse. The Sultan of Sokoto, who is the leader of the muslim community in Nigeria, led a delegation to President Goodluck Jonathan to complain about what he described as the ”under-representation of muslims” at the Constitutional Conference.
The President, in an uncharacteristically frank and candid manner, hit back immediately by asking the Sultan why it was that the muslim governors of the north-west do not sponsor members of their christian community to pilgrimage in Jerusalem in the same way that they sponsor the members of their muslim community to Mecca.
He urged the Sultan to tell the governors of the north-west to sit up and do the right thing by being fair to all. This was excellent counsel from our President and he has won many new converts and friends by asking the Sultan a pertinent question and telling him the simple truth.
Frankly I never knew that President Goodluck Jonathan had it in him and I am pleasantly surprised. If the christian population in the core north could be treated with such contempt and so unfairly by the core northern governors I really do wonder what their plight would be under a muslim/muslim President and Vice President. Perhaps those that tell us that ”religion does not matter” could enlighten us about this.
Permit me to end this rather long contribution with the words of a young, keen and insightful mind by the name of Miss Ayobami Animashaun. In my view, Ayo has put the case against a muslim/muslim ticket in a succinct, compelling and simply brilliant manner. In an interesting and somewhat heated facebook discussion on the 29th March 2014 she wrote as follows:
‘’The Presidential ticket in Nigeria is usually shared between the North/South and Muslim/Christian. To have a South/South or North/North or Christian/Christian or Muslim/Muslim for now will be a complete and total failure in the Nigeria we live in today. If it is true that a Muslim/Muslim ticket is currently being considered by APC then this is evidently the handy work of President Goodluck Jonathan’s ‘’prayer warriors’’! He shall have a very easy ride back to Aso Villa in 2015. I am an APC supporter but should the party field a muslim/muslim ticket I shall be jumping ship over to PDP for sure.
Someone within APC isn’t thinking right! 99% of Nigerians are extremely religious, and I am one of them. I make no apology for that. This country has over 85 million christians and for anyone in the APC to say they cannot find one out of 85 million to be on their ticket is extremely insulting to us. Take it or leave it, that is how I feel. I have indeed spoken the minds of many.
No self-respecting christian would support an all muslim ticket in Nigeria today. Neither would muslims accept a christian/christian ticket and neither should we expect them to do so. We already hear people openly refer to the APC as the Boko Haram and the Janjaweed Party. Presenting a muslim/muslim ticket would only confirm this. That is absolute logic!
Some say only a tiny percentage of our people care about religion or the faith of the candidates on the Presidential ticket? That is complete and utter bollocks! We will all be here to see the outcome of this folly! Meanwhile I will re-consider my support for the APC, because I cannot continue to be associated with people that are religiously insensitive!
This is a party whose key substantive officers in the National Executive Committe are ALL “muslims”! Meanwhile we are in 2014. Did I see someone compare 1993 to today? That was 21 years ago for goodness sake and so much has happened between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria since then. I am not religiously intolerant, I am simply being politically realistic in the climate we have in Nigeria today.
Trying to sound politically correct can only score you little brownie points on a small facebook thread. It is not common sense to come up with a Muslim/Muslim ticket in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state where over 50% of the population are Christians. To do so not only makes no sense but it is also politically suicidal.
Go to the Christians of the North Central, the North West and the North East and tell them that you are presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket and see if they do not stone you! Go to the South-South and the South-East and tell them that you are presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket and see if they do not spank you. Go to the South-West and tell the Yoruba Christians that you are presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket and see if they do not insult you. If you like, go ahead and try it!
This will not be the first time that arrogance and the lust for power overides sound judgement and wise counsel. I am seeing something very ugly behind the mask of the APC now and it is called religious bigotry.
My advice to you is to rid yourselves of it otherwise no self-respecting Christian would support you. No matter what you say or do, no one can use the back door to islamise Nigeria’’.
Miss Ayo Animashaun has spoken courageously and she has voiced an inconvenient and bitter truth. I need say no more. I rest my case. God bless Nigeria.
Femi Fani-Kayode is Nigeria’s former minister of aviation. He is a member of All Progressive Congress (APC).
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.